Shin Splints Caused by Common Life Postures
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
I have been helping athletes to battle Shin Splints and other athletic injuries and go back to their sport not only pain free but…stronger and faster than before for close to ten years.
I see athletes in my practice everyday who have painful shin splints, plantar fasciitis, morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendinitis, knee pain, iliotibial band syndrome, strained hamstrings, hip pain, back pain or some combination of these.
Most athletes who are injured spend a lot of time addressing the injured area, and thinking about how they can make changes in their training to change up what may be the aggravating cause of the injury. Very few athletes think to up their awareness level about what they are doing in life when they are not competing in their sport.
I have noticed through the years of helping athletes that there are two common postures that almost every single one of these injured athletes does in their everyday lives that are almost certainly contributing to their pain and injuries.
If you have been suffering with shin splints or one of the other injuries that I mentioned above, you may get some benefit and some relief just by making some simple changes in the way you hold your body.
100% of the athletes that I see in my office who are suffering with shin splints have a tendency to stand with knees that are extended too much, or hyperextended. While they are standing relaxed, they push their knees backwards and hang on the knee joints without activating any musculature in the legs.
This causes the hips to rock forward and the belly to protrude out, which ends up causing pinch to the joints of the low back
This hyperextended knee posture is detrimental in several ways.
First, by hanging on the knee joint capsule and ligaments instead of supporting the joint with muscle activation, you are putting the knee at risk of injury as well as future degeneration.
Second, this posture creates a situation where the feet are more likely to roll in or pronate which puts a lot of pressure on the anterior (front) and medial (inside) muscles of the lower leg. These are the muscles that, when they get angry, are responsible for much of the pain of Shin Splints.
Third and most importantly, as I mentioned above, I see most people hanging on their hip and pelvic joints which creates a situation where their belly protrudes out and the lumbar lordosis (curvature) at their low back is amplified creating risk for back pain.
This will create a situation of deactivation of the musculature that is supportive and offers stabilization to the pelvis, and ultimately to all the musculature below the pelvis (all the way down to the feet). This muscles are primarily the gluteal musculature.
If someone has a habit of standing this way all the time while they are relaxed, their bodies become accustomed to not having to use the stabilization muscles of the pelvis that are so important during running.
Then, when they go to run or do their sport, each step will not be supported in the way that it should be, making all the muscles from the floor to the core work harder each step.
The end result, if this is done repetitively (as running tends to be) is Shin Splints. Or foot pain, or Achille’s tendinitis, or Iliotibial band syndrome, or hamstring strain or hip pain…etc.
Ok, so that’s the bad news. There is good news.
I tell all of the athletes in my office that they have this bad habit of standing with their knees hyperextended and I tell them that it’s time to create a new habit.
All you have to do is check in with yourself occasionally and see what you are doing. If you catch yourself in the bad posture, make a correction by softening your knees. At first this will feel like you are doing a squat because your body is so used to being in the extended position and the muscles of your legs are not used to doing the work of supporting you while standing.
It will start to get easier the more you stick with it.
You can find someone in your life that is around you often and ask them to check on you and remind you to soften your knees or set an alarm on your watch for every 30 min or every hour to check in and see what your posture is.
The second posture that I commonly see that contributes to many running injuries is similar to the hyperextended knee posture but, the athlete tends to rest in one hip or the other when standing relaxed.
They tend to lean toward one hip putting most of their weight in that side and the knee under that hip is hyperextended.
This posture is common when the athlete has the symptom more strongly in one side than the other.
This posture creates similar stresses on the knees and pelvis but particularly on the side of the lean.
As a result, the deactivation of the musculature on that side leads to the injury showing up somewhere from the floor to the core on that same side.
Other common life postures that may lead to repetitive running/sports injuries because of how your body adapts to them are sitting with one leg crossed over the other. Most people prefer one side over the other and often have an injury from the hip down somewhere on that side.
Spending a lot of time driving in the car with the right leg forward on the gas and switching to the break will also create problems in many cases on the right side of the body.
So, now that you have a new awareness that your injury may have started long before you laced up your running shoes…
… try these postures that we have discussed today. See if you are guilty of them and then see if you can correlate them to some running injuries that you have been struggling with.
Next, break yourself of these habits and really take notice of how you spend your relaxed standing and sitting time when you are not doing your sport.
Your shins, feet, ankles, knees, legs, hips…..will thank you
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series ‘Living Well” inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
I will be making sure I stand better -I am guilty for standing one legged. Your body is a machine that likes to run on the right track
I’m glad you found a practical tip to take into your everyday life Angela!
Hi Dr Peggy, I'm amazed that this is the first blog by a Doctor that actually focuses on looking for and treating/correcting the cause of shin splints rather than just offering advice that just 'papers over the cracks' …ie, treating the symptoms!
I have suffered shin splints in the past and although not a doctor, I'm a firm believer in treating causes rather than symptoms (unlike most pharmaceutical companies!) and I try to give a good balance of shin splints treatment and prevention advice on my blog but I have to say that your article is definitely a cut above anything I put on my site and was definitely on the money!! Thanks
good health and good running
Thanks for your comments Jay,
It’s nice to hear such positive words from another Shin Splints warrior 🙂
Good Health and Pain Free Running to you too!
Hi Dr. Peggy. Great advice and glad you included photos! There are a few habits that I will definitely change before I suffer from shin splints! Thanks so much!
Awareness is key Alexandra….even before you experience the symptoms of an injury. I’m glad you found something that you can try!!
Going to have to practice this…21 days and I will have it mastered <smile>! Thanks Peggy!
You got it Kim! Keep practicing 🙂
Posture is something I've been working on. Especially since I sit at a desk most of the day for my job. This is great!
That’s great McKenna! Watch in the next few weeks for a post about better posture for those with desk/computer type jobs!
Great advice, thanks! I try not to stand on one leg at a time, but it's easily done.
It’s so common Tara. As long as you are already trying to make a change…that’s the first step 🙂
There is so much to take away from this article! Thank you so much for posting it Dr Peggy! 🙂
I’m glad you found something to take with you Solvita!
Another brilliantly informative wellness article! Thank you!
Glad you found it informative Carl! Thanks for your comment 🙂
Great tips! Such an important – and common – topic/injury. Thanks!
Great advice–and love the pictures to help us really see the 'bad' vs 'good' postures. I suffer with hip joints that continuously go out of line and posture is essential in keeping these in line. Of course, if I strengthened my core significantly I won't struggle nearly as much 😉
You've given me food for thought. I tend to take the second bad posture. One of my legs is longer than the other, so I often stand in that way because it seems to be more comfortable. I really ought to wear the heel lift my local chiropractor supplied. ::blush:: Thanks for the tips!
I am guilty of putting my weight on one hip, I don't know why I do it but I will have to start practicing better posture. Thank you : )
Super guilty of standing one legged…I will have to correct, especially since I started standing when I work for part of the day 🙂 Very informative, thank you.
I love the tips. Now I have to pay attention. 🙂
Great information. Shin splints are very common.
Thanks. I am guilty of both hyper-extending and resting on one hip. Your advice is so helpful when you explain it all.
Thanks for your comments Edwina. I’m glad that you found something helpful in the post!
Interesting! This is great information! I know I am guilty of the weight on oneside for sure most often. I must now pay more attention to what I am doing. Thanks
Great article Peggy! Wish I would have had this information when I was younger! I used to get shin splints all the time, but I nailed it down to the way I was training and changed it. I haven't had shin splints since.
Great tips! Posture is so important….\
Norma Doiron @ the LEARNED Preneur ╰☆╮
Oh yes, I am very prone to standing on one side more than the other! Thanks for this great information! Time to change my standing "patterns."
Yay, I’m glad you are taking something from the article Jennifer!
Great article, Dr. Peggy! That last photo looks definitely like me. I will now take steps to correct that. Thank you, for such great information 😉
Great info ~ I am definitely a one-legged stander! Thanks for tips to improve!
I love this drug-free, pain-free solution to shin splints, thanks. I love being outdoors but never run outside because I get shin splints every time I've tried. Maybe I can re-think that now. I'm sure my posture could use some improvement . . .
This is extremely helpful!! No one ever told me I had extended knees but I realize now I have hyperextended everything. These tips are great. Before and after pictures definitely help. Odd question, but how do you walk without hyperextending your knees? I try and it doesn't feel or look natural…at all.
Posture does make a big difference Denise! I’m glad you found this article helpful.
As for walking and knees. When you are walking your muscles are working so just walk…don’t worry about what your knees are doing 🙂
The hyperextension when standing still is troublesome because it’s putting excess pressure on joints and the muscles ‘go on holidays’…when walking, the muscles are
back to work so you don’t have to think about them.
Thank you so much for writing this. I have been dealing with shin pain recently and I actually want sure if it was shin splints because everybody talks about how its an oveover use injury, but nobody has mentioned that it could be sure to bad posture. This year in my life I have not been very active due to dealing with other things, but I have caught myself at work leaving onto one hip while on tile floors many times, and I had a feeling this could be the reason for my pain. Thank you for writing this and being the first to mention posture being a possible cause.
I have been suffering from shin splints for 4 months despite rest, PT, no impact exercises, etc. I am hoping that changing my posture from the hyperextended stance is the answer! How long do you expect for the shins to heal once posture is correct?
It’s hard to say. Your case doesn’t seem to have responded to all of the usual treatments, so maybe longer. I’d give it at least 6 weeks.
Let me know how it goes!
Very nice observation and solution. I will start to notice my protrude belly often. Thanks a lot!
It really does help to check in often and see which postural habits you have that may be contributing to your pain. Good luck!